December 27, 1966 -
First attended a gay rodeo in 1994
Douglas Graff was born and raised on a pig farm in Wisconsin with three sisters and a brother. His dad was an auctioneer and Doug spent most summer weekends helping at estate auctions. He quickly found his niche running the food stand. At 14, he had finally saved enough money to buy his first horse... which soon led to his first broken arm. More would follow, but after a hiatus.
Doug's hometown had fewer than 200 people, so to say that everyone knew everyone is a big understatement. When it became clear to him that he was, well, special, Doug decided to leave the farm and pursue a college degree and then a job out of state in a bigger city. He couldn't get away from the farm fast enough... or so he thought.
He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in May of 1989. By July he had relocated to Flint, Michigan where he worked for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as a Systems Engineer at the General Motors V8 plant. EDS had a habit of moving people around to various assignments. In 1992, Doug was stationed in Plano, Texas and discovered Oak Lawn in Dallas. He quickly learned it was easier to meet men if you could dance. Luckily a guy took pity on Doug and taught him to two-step one Sunday afternoon at the Round-Up Saloon. Doug's next assignment was in Cupertino, California where he discovered another country bar and more cowboys... this time it was a ranch owner who invited Doug to the ranch for calf vaccinating and branding weekend; the stars were lining up. He also met an International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) contestant who Doug believed needed extra special attention. Doug was up for the task and bought a plane ticket to Los Angeles for the rodeo. At the airport, he met then GSGRA President and soon to be IGRA President, Craig Rouse. Years later, Craig would become Doug's mentor and dear friend. It was that weekend, at the 10th Annual LA Rodeo, in 1994, when Doug realized he could embrace his roots and his sexuality...he was happy.
The California work assignment ended, Doug returned to Michigan and sought out the country dancing scene. On his first night, he saw a poster for a new group that was forming a gay rodeo in Detroit. He went to one meeting and BAM, he was hooked. He quickly became an officer and rodeo production team member for the Greater Motown International Rodeo. He would serve the rodeo for three years before relocating back to California.
When Doug arrived in San Jose in 1996, the San Jose Rodeo was dwarfed by the then huge LA and San Diego Rodeos. He worked tirelessly for many years to bring new features to the "little" California rodeo. He really wanted a pool party but there was no money in the budget for it. So, he rented used sound equipment and asked his then boyfriend to play music on Friday as people were arriving. It was a hit and through the years, the Friday and Saturday San Jose Pool Parties often had more spectators than the rodeo!! Jabby Lowe, GSGRA President, gave Doug the first ever "Because I Can Award" in 2007 for his passion to make change happen.
Doug held multiple chapter and association formal and informal leadership roles in California. He was instrumental in rebranding the San Jose Rodeo as the "Best Buck in the Bay". He worked to create one of the first gay rodeo advertisements on mainstream country radio. He had a knack for courting sponsors like Corralejo Tequila, Western Wearhouse, and Elbow Grease to get in on gay rodeo. He served as Rodeo Director for the Best Buck in the Bay four times.
Like so many, once Doug got close to the dirt, he got back in it. He quickly mastered the camp events and started riding steers and bulls. Through the years, he earned many buckles and ribbons. He especially loved the Wild Drag Race because it allowed him to be a fierce competitor and a huge audience pleaser.
Doug also competed on the royalty side of the house and won the title of Mr. GSGRA in 1998. It spawned a lifelong friendship with Miss GSGRA 1998, Alex Michaels, He went on to become Mr. IGRA 1999 along with his black sash compadres, Miss IGRA 1999, DeShannon, and Ms. IGRA 1999, Laura Scott. During those years and still today, Doug has lent his fundraising, singing, and motivating talents to the royalty side of IGRA.
On his last rodeo arena competition weekend, a documentarian was following him in hopes of telling Doug's story. Unfortunately, Doug broke his pelvis in Steer Riding on Saturday and his rodeo competition days were over.
Prior to the accident, Doug's flair for well, flair, had him doing double duty as Rodeo Clown and competitor for many years. Ask him some time to tell you about the two southern belles and their trip to New York City...it's a classic. After the accident, Doug was approached by the Hot Rodeo in 2008 to be their announcer. He accepted the invitation unsure of what he was getting into, but he was a natural. He picked it up and his years of rodeo involvement, contestant relationships, sponsor appreciation and entertainment skills served him well. He was honored to be invited to announce World Gay Rodeo Finals his first year as an announcer.
In 2010, at IGRA Convention in Reno, Doug was elected President of IGRA. He worked diligently with Bud Light to secure a sponsorship contract and balanced the IGRA budget without using funds from savings. His professional computer software background and natural showmanship brought forward a website with newer technology, including many pictures to help tell the IGRA story.
Today, Doug lives in Las Vegas Nevada, where there is no shortage of flair.